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View from Down Under: Cricket the main game in Australia

There's one sport in Australia that takes center stage over the coming Christmas-New Year's period and that's cricket.

While the increasingly popular Big Bash League begins next Tuesday, the three-match Test series between Australia and Pakistan begins Thursday (AU time) with a day-night Test in Brisbane.

Cricket's terminology can be confusing for our North American friends at the best of times. So when we start talking about pink balls and day-night Tests, it's reasonable to think your eyes will glaze over.

Pretty much, it’s the same as a five-day Test match, but played in the afternoon and evening, requiring a pink cricket ball, as opposed to the usual red, because it is easier to see.

The betting market makes it easy to see that Australia is expected to win this match. The home side is $1.36 (-278) while Pakistan is $6.20 (+520). The draw, an outcome where neither side can dismiss the other side twice, is also at $6.20 (+520).

To confuse all of you even more, the second and third Tests are played in Melbourne and Sydney and revert to daytime hours and are played with a red ball. Australia is $1.25 (-400) to win the series.

The Big Bash League, a Twenty20 competition which features franchise teams from Australian cities, will attract more attention from the fans than international cricket and gets underway next Tuesday in Sydney. Melbourne Stars are currently the $5 (+400) favourites.

The biggest sporting fixture of the weekend is probably the Melbourne derby in the A-League soccer, where City and Victory meet for the second time this season.

This rivalry has developed into the biggest in the league and with City currently second on the table and Victory third, there is plenty on the line. City defeated Victory once in the league and once in the Cup this season and accordingly go in as $2.30 (+130) favourite, with a Victory win priced at $2.87 (+187).

Ladder-leading Sydney takes the long road trip to Perth to play the Glory and is $2 (+100) to win and continue its unbeaten start to the season.

The Australian National Basketball League is a very tight competition and the Adelaide 36ers, who were at the bottom of the league four weeks ago, are now second and could go top when they play the top-of-the-table Sydney Kings back to back. The Kings are $1.78 (-128) for the away game on Friday and $1.56 (-179) for the home game two days later.

You would think that Adelaide, on a five-match winning streak, looks good value at $2.05 (+105) to win its home match.

Next week, we will give you an insight into that other great Christmas season sport in Australia, yachting, with the Sydney-Hobart yacht race set to get underway on Boxing Day.